During tough economic times, smart companies harness the power of media relations to promote and grow their businesses. Media relations is the art of working with journalists in various media (i.e., newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet) to inform their audiences about your company’s news or information. Here are three media relations strategies to help you create solid relationships with journalists.

Master the Media Release. A media release is a one- to two-page, double-spaced document that presents the details of your news.  The first paragraph contains the most important details:  the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and (sometimes) the How of your story.  Subsequent paragraphs present supporting details in order of descending importance.  Include your name and telephone number so that the media can contact you for further information or for an interview.

Send the media release to a specific person.  Contact the media outlet, explain the nature of your news and ask for the name of and contact information for the reporter handling stories of that type. Determine the journalist’s preferred method of submission then submit the media release to that reporter by that method.

Having news about your company appear in the media on a regular basis builds top-of-the-mind awareness among your customers and prospects.

Become a Go-To Source for Key Reporters. Read and watch local media coverage to determine the journalists that report about your industry. Compile their names and email addresses in a contact database. Follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media because they will often post calls for information or sources on those platforms. Build relationships with key reporters and become one of their go-to sources for industry information. Send a letter or email, introducing yourself and your company as a source. Then monitor their coverage of industry happenings, provide background information on key issues and reach out to them when news breaks.

When you become a reliable source for journalists, you will be among the first they call when they need a quote or an interview, and your company will enjoy free publicity.

Expand Your Expertise as a Source. After you’ve built relationships with local media, expand your expertise as a source through Help a Reporter Out (HARO).  HARO’s mission is to connect expert sources with reporters and bloggers on deadline. Since its founding in 2008, HARO has made connections for approximately 7.5 million media pitches and has promoted nearly 1,500 brands.

Register as a source at www.helpareporter.com. You’ll receive three-times daily email digests of the topics for which reporters need sources. Each listing contains the reporter’s contact information, type of source needed and the deadline. When you see a match between a need and your expertise, contact the journalist with a short, specific response. Respond promptly and pay attention to deadlines. Avoid pitching outside the scope of the listing. For example, if a reporter needs a lion tamer to discuss dealing with big cats, don’t respond that you’re a snake charmer who can discuss dealing with cobras.

When you expand your expertise as a source, you have the opportunity to tell your company’s story to a wider customer base, promote your brand to prospects and sell more of your products and services.

These strategies will help you harness the power of media relations. You’ll create solid relationships with journalists and successfully promote and grow your business even in tough economic times.

Blogger Bio: Pauline Bartel, M.A., is President and Chief Creative Officer of Bartel Communications, Inc., an award-winning corporate communications firm, specializing in marketing, public relations and business anniversary consulting services. The firm created “The Bartel Years™” and “The Bartel Years 200™,” rosters of business anniversary symbols to inspire two centuries of business anniversary “sell”-abrations. Download free copies of “The Bartel Years™” and the special report “The Top 10 Business Anniversary Ideas for SELL-abrating Your Business Anniversary” at this link: http://www.paulinebartel.com/services/corporate-services/business-anniversary-consulting